by David Sisler
Let's begin with some definitions of "ambition."
One day in early fall, a class of second graders was discussing the subject, "What I Want to Be When I Grow Up." The students responded with some typical replies: "a fireman," "a nurse," "an astronaut," "a teacher."
One of the children appeared deep in thought. The teacher asked him what he would like to be someday. The little boy looked up with a frown and replied, "I don't even know what I want to be for Halloween yet!"
A successful, elderly woman was asked what she would have done differently as a young woman, if she knew then all the things she now knew late in her life. Her answer is an interesting definition of ambition:
"I would have laughed more. I would have grieved less. I would have understood earlier that not all losses are permanent and that some things lost were not worth keeping. I would have been more emotionally daring."
She continued, "I would have understood sooner how profoundly satisfying the ordinary transactions of daily life can be: a perfect cup of morning coffee; my son shouting down 'Good night!' from his room; the ginger-colored cat caught napping in a triangle of sunlight."
John Burroughs, an American naturalist and author, said, "I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see."
One more view of ambition.
We do not know the man's name, but he had just completed a fantastic season. No, he was not an athlete. He was a farmer. The harvest was so bountiful that he did not have room to store all of his crops.
Looking around at the haphazard way he had built his storage buildings, he thought, "If I tear all of these buildings down I can better use the land, build more and larger buildings and hold even more crops. With that project completed I will be able to retire, take it easy, and enjoy the rest of my life."
That night, with ambitious plans for his future still uppermost in his mind, he died.
God surveyed the man's ambitious plans, called him a fool, and then asked, "Who will get those things you prepared only for yourself?"
Commenting on that story, Jesus said, "This is how it will be for anyone who is greedy and stores up things only for himself and is not rich toward God."
We talk about the "haves" and the "have nots"--the people with great wealth and the people with great poverty. Can you imagine being told, "You are not rich toward God?"
We spend our lives achieving our ambitions. When someone is really ambitious, it is almost impossible to discourage that person. But do you know there is another kind of ambition? It is spiritual ambition. It is not limited to time. It embraces eternity. It, too, involves investment and priorities and concentration. It, too, looks to a future beyond retirement.
Jesus was not condemning wealth. He never condemned wealth, nor did He praise poverty. He never spoke against planning for the inevitability of retirement. But He did teach that if our desire for material things exceeds our desire for spiritual things, we are then worshipping something other than God.
If your doctor told you, "You only have six months to live," would you be interested in a new business venture or in a new way to make money? Or would you reexamine your priorities?
Jesus told one group of Christians, "You say you need nothing, but you do not realize the depth of your poverty." By the grace of God, you have time for reexamination. If you are not ambitious toward God, your ambitions are pointing you in the wrong direction. Change. While you still have time.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 7/23/94
Copyright 1994 by David Sisler
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